The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge Under Construction, courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York

For more information

  • This event has taken place
  • Tel: +44 (0)1937 546546
  • Email:
  • Full Price: £10.00 Member: £7.00 Under 18: £7.00 Other concessions available

An examination of Washington Roebling, the engineer who built the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and helped shape the modern world

“I know that nothing can be done perfectly at the first trial; I also know that each day brings its little quota of experiences, which with honest intentions, will lead to perfection after a while."  Washington Roebling

His father conceived of the Brooklyn Bridge, but after John Roebling’s sudden and tragic death it was Washington Roebling who built what has become one of America’s most iconic structures, as much a part of New York as the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Yet its builder is too often forgotten and his life is of interest far beyond his chosen field. It is the story of immigrants, of the American frontier, of the greatest crisis in that nation’s history, and of the making of the modern world. 

Chief Engineer is the definitive portrait of the man behind the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge, once the longest suspension bridge in the world. Erica Wagner’s biography allows Roebling to speak eloquently in his own words, revealing a humane intelligence and dry observational style. Whether on a battlefield of the American Civil War, building the great bridge which would link Manhattan and Brooklyn, or setting out for London’s Millwall Docks and the salons of 19th-century Paris, Washington Roebling makes a fine companion for any age, and the story of his life is both surprising and inspiring. The event will be chaired by poet and author Blake Morrison.

Erica Wagner was born in New York City. She is the author of Gravity: Stories, Ariel's Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and the Story of Birthday Letters and Seizure, a novel. She is the editor of First Light: A Celebration of Alan Garner. Twice a judge of the Man Booker Prize, she was literary editor of The Times for 17 years and is now contributing literary editor for Harper’s Bazaar, a contributing writer for the New Statesman, as well as writing for the Financial Times, the Economist and the New York Times. She was the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer’s Award in 2014, and she is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. She lives in London.

The discussion is followed by a book signing and wine reception.

Enjoy food and drink purchased from the Knowledge Centre Bar from 18.00 and after the event until the Bar closes at 22.00.

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library


Name: The Man Who Built the Brooklyn Bridge
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: Full Price: £10.00
Member: £7.00
Senior 60+: £8.00
Student: £7.00
Registered Unemployed: £7.00
Under 18: £7.00
Friend of the BL: £7.00
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546